‘I will never forget being the first through the doors’

Janet Thickpenny

26 Nov 2014


10th Anniversary • Video

Janet Thickpenny, now a Visitor Services Assistant at Wales Millennium Centre, describes what it was like to open the doors to the Centre on November 26 2004.

The Centre’s opening ceremony involved unlocking a large padlock on the main doors with a key that had travelled around the world. The key arrived in Cardiff Bay by boat, before being passed up to Janet, who unlocked the padlock.

I remember watching the Centre being built on visits to Cardiff Bay, and the mounting anticipation in Cardiff as the building took shape in the skyline. I was very excited, therefore, when it was announced that the Centre would open on Friday 26 November - my 40th Birthday - and that there would be a competition for a member of the public to open it. As I met the competition criteria - celebrating a birthday on the opening date, and having looked forward to the milestone for some time, I couldn't miss the opportunity to apply. So I sent in my entry, crossed my fingers and waited in anticipation.....and was duly rewarded.....I had been successful!

I woke on that lovely sunny day feeling very excited and very privileged to have this once in a lifetime opportunity, but this was tinged with nervousness - this was a huge responsibility and what if I messed up in my five minutes of fame? I need not have worried, I enjoyed every minute and felt a huge sense of pride as the key reached me and I turned it in the lock - I will never forget being first through the doors at that historic moment! The icing on the cake was attending the evening gala concert with my mum - her delight at walking up the red carpet, the noise, the excitement and the photographers made us feel like royalty for the night.

I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to work at the Centre and was therefore delighted when the opportunity presented itself in 2012. Although I had visited the Centre and attended lots of shows through the years, I hadn't appreciated the diversity of the space and activities as I do now - the wonderful shows in the Weston Studio, the exhibitions and the fabulous talent on the Glanfa Stage. Working at the Centre has opened up endless possibilities to me, such as the opportunity to appreciate opera for the first time. I can now share the personal pride that I feel with the many visitors I meet. The unusual design seems to attract people, visitors to Cardiff who are curious, want to find out more and are fascinated by tales of the design, history and, of course, the fabulous inscription.

My favourite time is entering the Donald Gordon Theatre before a performance - each time I open the doors and enter I feel the same thrill when I see auditorium. It looks fabulous from each position - looking up from the front stalls or down from the rear of the upper circle - wherever I am, it makes me catch my breath. The orchestra is tuning up, the company warming up, the venue ushers appear one by one through the doors like cuckoos in a clock, or figures on a weather vane, and the theatre starts to come alive. The anticipation and excitement builds as the audience enter, until that last frantic few moments as the doors close and the show starts.

It is a similar feeling in the foyer - the excitement builds as people start to arrive. There is a buzz of chatter and noise as family and friends come together to enjoy a performance and a flurry of activity as they make their way to their seats. As the last few scurry up the stairs and clearance is given, the foyer seems to breathe a sigh of relief and a calm descends as the show begins.

I hesitate to describe being at the Centre as being in work as its very rewarding being part of a dedicated, diverse, fun, enthusiastic and hard-working team. I feel very privileged and proud to be part of that team, playing a part in promoting the Centre to the people of Wales and visitors from all over the world. I look forward with anticipation and excitement to the challenges of the next ten years.

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